Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Gays in Iraq

The recent murder of gays in Iraq (New York Times) is a reminder of what happens when fear and hatred are allowed to fester and grow under the approving eye of religion.

Anti-gay sentiment in the United States is real, but on every hand, folks of conscience and faith are addressing it, exposing it, calling it for what it is, and changing it.

My brothers and sisters in the Presbyterian Church who oppose gay ordination and claim to be only "abiding by God's Word" are abiding only by the strictures of exclusion, fear and potential hatred. They fail to see their religious opinion in the larger context of social constructs. While excluding gays and lesbians from the ordained ministries of the church, they adamantly proffer their "love" and "acceptance" of all, but with this caveat: "If you're really a Christian, you won't be a homosexual. Christ will deliver you to a heterosexual life," or at the very least, "you will be celibate."

I made my decision on this some years ago.

Growing up in the church, as I did, I entered ministry (January, 1970) believing that the Bible presented a clear and convincing case against homosexuality, and gave it no further thought until 1976, when I read the first report from one of our task forces. Seeing for the first time how improbable it was to build a case for exclusion against an entire group of people on the basis of just a few verses, all of which have translation and contextual issues, the first move was made for me.

In the early 80s, I met my first AIDs victim - a young man who had come home to die. His family asked me to call on him in the hospital, and I did, and it wasn't easy, because his heart was embittered by what the church had done to him, and who can blame him, when religion tells someone "you're no good," "you're defective," "sinful" and "going to hell."

It was then that I began to see and teach: the biblical posture on morality is not about gender (in which there is no inherent virtue), but fidelity in relationship vs. promiscuity, and when it comes to promiscuity, heterosexuals are leading the way, and heterosexual failure in marriage (including Christian marriage) belies the claims religious people, especially Christians, love to make for their faith.

But I was mostly under the radar, waiting for "further" insight.

And then an associate pastor told me that her brother was gay and thus commenced a lot of conversation and thought, and when the anti-gay voices reached crescendo-pitch, "convincing" the world that their point of view was the godly one, I "came out." Not all at once, but I clearly entered the fray with essays and comment on the floor of Presbytery. The church I served opened its doors to meetings of the GLBT community and hosted their finances for several years until they were able to organize.

During this time, a gay pastor, who had come out, and I became friends, and when AIDs began to take his life, I served him communion regularly. He and his partner (deceased) had lived faithfully for 17 years, and more than that, he was an "evangelical" in piety and theology, being a graduate of Gordon-Conwell, with all the "evangelical" credentials, except one, he was gay.

Putting it all together took some time, but here I am today.

Religion, Christianity, has long specialized in exclusion - this is how power behaves. How striking is our history when measured against the welcome of Jesus (see Diana Butler Bass' new book, "A People's History of Christianity").

Hats off to Jack Rogers and thousands of Presbyterians throughout the United States who stand firm on behalf of a new day.

I long for the time when the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is done with this nonsense of exclusion and can bear witness to our society with the ethic of Jesus and his witness to the love of God.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful post ... I like it a lot. I too started out on the other side of the fence and then came around.

    That's why I think the other side is wasting their time trying to convince me of their case. I already believed their case and disowned it.